Head coach Clay Helton has lost the USC football fanbase. Athletic director Lynn Swann is in danger of joining him as confidence in the program reaches a low.
Three weeks ago, after Clay Helton lost to Arizona State at the Coliseum, athletic director Lynn Swann went on Trojans Live and gave his head coach a vote of confidence.
“I believe in Clay Helton,” Swann said the day before Halloween. It’s been a living nightmare for USC football ever since.
USC has lost their last two games—four of their last five—to teams with far less talent. They were outplayed and outcoached by rival UCLA. Not just a rival, but the worst Bruin team by win percentage to ever beat the Trojans. It was only the third time in history a UCLA team with a losing record prevailed in the crosstown tilt.
More from Reign of Troy
- Markese Stepp enters transfer portal intending to leave USC football
- USC football’s Alijah Vera-Tucker declares for NFL Draft
- USC football adds Xavion Alford as transfer from Texas
- USC Podcast: RoT Radio Ep. 396 on the Football Season’s Fallout
- Talanoa Hufanga named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, USC football with five first-teamers
The rivalry loss was not an aberration either. The woeful offense was smothered by Stanford and Cal. The mistake-filled team was smashed by Texas and Utah. The spineless squad gave up leads to Arizona, Colorado and Oregon State in unsatisfying wins.
All the while, Helton downplayed recurring issues, making minimal changes to correct the deep-seeded problems in the team and persisting with mishap-prone players.
Trojan fans do not believe in Clay Helton, that much is clear from the growing dissatisfaction voiced on social media, message boards and around barbecues at tailgates. The fanbase was split going into the season. Now, it appears that opinion on Helton’s job security is universal: It’s time for USC to move on.
Yet there’s that vote of confidence from Swann. There are murmurings that Helton is likely to stay, with financial concerns and a presidential vacancy rationalizing the decision.
Swann is in danger of losing the fanbase himself.
Reign of Troy Radio Dept. Premium Matte Framed Poster
Fans on at least one popular USC message board are openly discussing taking out a full page ad in the Los Angeles Times to voice their ire with Helton and the very real possibility he will be kept in place.
UPDATE: A GoFundMe campaign to fly a banner calling for Helton’s firing above USC’s campus before the Notre Dame game on Saturday raised more than $2,000 in two hours on Tuesday afternoon.
UPDATE 2: Funding for a banner secured, the campaign has now turned its eyes towards a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times, which would cost $20,000. More than $10,000 has been raised as of Wednesday morning.
Less public displays of discontent are gaining steam. Many fans have already stopped going to games, with attendance figures plummeting. Season ticket holders are weighing the decision to not to renew for 2019. Even some at home are choosing to no longer watch USC games on TV.
As much as Swann and company are faced with a financial conundrum regarding Clay Helton’s buyout, USC fans tuning out will have financial consequences for the Trojans as well. Fans in Los Angeles are fickle. With Lebron in a Laker jersey and the Dodgers, Rams and Chargers thriving, how many will be racing to spend a day at the Coliseum watching the cardinal and gold falter? How many will opt to spend their money on the tickets, jerseys or merchandise of more successful franchises in the city?
It’s not just about firing Helton, which would go a long way towards quelling the flames. It’s also about approaching the next coaching hire with ambition, avoiding the pitfalls of Pat Haden by seeking successful and qualified candidates outside the mold. It’s about standing up and making decisions the way an elite college football program should and accepting nothing less than excellence.
It’s about restoring faith in the leadership at the top of the athletic department and university. Failing to do so will keep Troy in decline.
There is no team without fans supporting them. And the fans have had enough.